Saturday, January 21, 2012

Elizabeth Dove Prints:On Tactile Remembrance and Being Human

Elizabeth Dove's prints and photographs take the viewer on a journey some of us may not want to make. Yet, there is a honesty in their openness which quickly changes the viewer's mind to decide this journey may be worth the effort and something we can all relate to.

Dove  uses objects like wishbones, hair, ladders, stitching, words and letters from dictionaries and writings from hers and others' journals to conduct a visual search for what it is to be human. This journal series uses her own body as a canvas; the basis for all the things going on in her mind, and in her own world of experience, to try to make sense of what obviously confuses us all - life, hope, fear, joy, and loss. The  image above is from Dove's "First Year" project relating to becoming a mother and the things one's body goes through in having a child - fluctuations in the body itself as it expands, contracts, hormonal swings, stitching it back together.

I am intrigued with her previous "Tabula" series(pictured above), which looks like clusters of red blood cells and the scarification of one's own skin, stitched ladders doubling as chromosome strains and rope knots -intact and cut off - which would suggest her hope for what becomes "The First Year".
Dove exaggerates the flesh tone of her skin to the a blood red, to emphasize what is beneath the skin, what keeps us living and what connects us as human beings. The realization of the series is a complete intermingling of blood cells on the composition and her son's footprints on Tabula V.

A more recent series entitled, "But I Don't Know Why..." is about a significant loss, unfinished conversations and questions without answers. This series resonates such an open wound of the artist that it may be hard for the viewer to see, but it speaks a topic most of us have also experienced.  Dove has written notes and thoughts from her journals on her own body and photographed them for all to see. The jumbled, rambling effect this creates re-emphasizes the thoughts one has after such a profound loss, the things one keeps inside their heads, ruminating conversations and reliving the grief over and over, trying to make sense of what will never be understood.

Dove is making hard, solid work. There are some visual associations with artists like Kiki Smith, Andres Serrano, and artists who use ink and paint to cover one's body (however those are often for political/erotic purpose), but Dove's not speaking as an outside observer to someone else's tragedy, design ideas or eroticism. She's putting herself out there for everyone to see, using her own thoughts and body for her work.And in a period where art seems to speak of the absurdity and media splash of cut up animals in formaldehyde and ill-conceived performance, Dove's work will have a lasting impact and an audience that grows to appreciate the human element her ideas and their execution.

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